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Meet Kristina Welch of Jovial Concept/ The Co-op at 1st in Barnum

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kristina Welch.

Kristina, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Jovial Concepts started in 2009 when I was seeking to give back by inspiring and empowering folks to create initiatives to better their community. We had so many successful initiatives that in 2013, we decided we needed to focus on just one. We felt our garden program, in which we transform a portion of a property into an organic edible garden was addressing several of the key issues in Colorado. Gardens are a fantastic way to increase outdoor time, increase movement, learn STEM-related skills, as well as create economic opportunity and relieve some of the stress of a grocery budget.

Since 2013 Jovial Concepts has successfully managed about 10,000 sq ft (67 garden beds) of gardens and donates over 5,000 lbs of food to food banks and elementary schools each year. In 2017, our partner non-profit ACS Community LIFT had to shut their doors for financial reasons, Jovial Concepts felt that the services that LIFT provided (access to food, free health care, energy bill assistance, SNAP/WIC/Job training and community space) were necessary in providing a quality of life for many low-income residents in our Barnum neighborhood. For this reason, Jovial Concepts’ decided (with the help of over 1,200 volunteers) to restore the space and continue many of the services for the community.

Now called The Co-op at 1st, Jovial Concepts owns this diverse community center located in West Denver on 1st and Sheridan. We are a certified green community center by the City of Denver and our space includes a large event space, commercial kitchen, year-round (neighborhood run) farmers market, movement studio and offices.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Some of the biggest obstacles we have encountered have been financial. As a small grassroots non-profit with only one employee, we have had to account for a lot of growth over the last two years, construction costs, and a mortgage. We had to switch our gears from surviving off the $10-$20 donations from the community we served to needing large grants and donors. Though we have adjusted well with our growth, it is still an uphill battle to finance the space and all the community services we wish to provide.

Please tell us about Jovial Concept/ The Co-op at 1st.
Jovial Concepts provides hands-on opportunities for economic development, food access, and STEM-based learning. I think Jovial Concepts/ The Co-op at 1st are unique in that they have truly created an example of 1 stop equity in a low-income neighborhood. We have done an outstanding job of being an all-inclusive space that has something to benefit everyone regardless of gender, socio-economic status, education level, race, etc. We specialize in food systems and access. I am most proud of how many kids and families are eating healthier and feeling better because of our garden program and neighborhood market. I am very proud of the amount of waste our work diverts from landfills and how much water use is reduced via our garden practices vs. lawns or other farming.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
As a kid, I spent most of my time playing in the woods that surrounded my house and watching the animals. I was fascinated by the diversity of species living in my backyard and dreamed of being a wildlife veterinarian. One day a bird flew into our window in my home in Texas, everyone thought the chance of survival was slim. I ran outside and gently sat the bird up, which hopped on to my finger before flying away. It was then that I realized maybe I didn’t want to be a veterinarian as much as I wanted to create positive change between the relationship of humans and their environment.

Pricing:

  • The C0-op at 1st Membership is just $50 per month with tons of perks.
  • Movement Membership can be found as low as $44 per month
  • The Event space fully loaded with commercial kitchen, PA system and projector is offered from $250 for a half day use and $400 for a full day.
  • Neighborhood Market with dedication to being green with minimal packaging has many items priced lower than its competitors.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Mike Spade

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